It turned that this is one of the few (possibly only?) areas in which our predictions about impending parenthood were correct. Our baby despised his pram. In the carrier, however, he was happy as larry. To the point where I would put him in his fluffy snowsuit, walk round the block with him in the carrier, then put him on the floor at home to continue his snooze. Some days we didn’t even make it out of the apartment block, he fell asleep that fast.
Unfortunately, the Baby Bjorn didn’t last very long, in the sense that it became excruciating for my back and shoulders by the time M-Little was about 6 months. We did also borrow another model with extra back support, which M-big got on with quite well for another 6 months. I could never get it to fit me properly, however.
So, we took a deep breath and decided to buy a soft carrier. New. Full Price. *gasp*
Regular readers of this blog know that at P&P Towers we rarely buy new AND full price. But our thinking was that the new carrier should be ultra-versatile: able to carry both the Bean until he could walk himself to nursery, and any other, future additions to our family from birth. We also wanted something that was both eco-reponsible (no fire-retardant chemicals in the fabric) and socially responsible (fair trade). That, in our mind, was worth paying for.
We landed on Babipur’s website, a gorgeous online store of ethical baby goods, staffed by equally gorgeous people (they do things like gift wrap items not sent to your own address - i.e. for friends - for free, without you having to ask). They stock several carriers, but in the end we went for the BabyHawk Mei Tai, priced £64.50.
How does the BabyHawk Mei Tai work?
Advantages of the BabyHawk Mei Tai
It has one set of straps that go around the waist and another, padded, set to go over the shoulders and back round the waist. These combine to give excellent support.
M-Little is now about 11 kg and M-Big and I are both still very happy to carry him. For me it’s a physical effort - 11 kg on your back is quite a load! - but it doesn’t hurt me anywhere. The maximum weight for the carrier is 18 kg, which I think is realistic.
2. It’s comfortable for the baby/toddler
Theoretically, this carrier ensures the baby/toddler is in the “correct” position: with their legs up, froggy-style, as a newborn, and with their weight spread across their hips and knees as an older baby/toddler.
Though he can’t tell me whether he’s comfortable in words, the first time I put the Bean in it he fell asleep within five minutes. We were in a heaving IKEA at the time. I take that as a toddler-endorsement.
3. It’s versatile
You can tie it in many different ways, for a front, back, or hip carry. The BabyHawk website has diagrams on how to tie it, though I also really liked this video:
The BabyHawk folds up into a 21 cm x 21 cm x 6.5 cm soft plastic case (which it comes with). This is only a little taller than one of those "first shoes" shoe boxes by Clarks.
As we don’t have a car to sling a bulky structured carrier in, and often travel by plane, its compactness is a huge plus point for us.
It’s been used daily for six months. It’s been peed on. It’s been put through the washing machine. It’s travelled with us through 4 airports. And yet it still hasn’t faded or frayed anywhere at all.
6. It ticks the ‘responsible’ boxes
Eco-responsible in that the BabyHawk is made with 100% cotton chino twill and 100% quilting quality cotton that have not been treated with any chemicals, including flame-retardants.
Socially responsible in that they are made to order at the company’s headquarters in California rather than mass-manufactured in return for rock-bottom wages somewhere in China.
7. It’s oh so pretty (but not too girly)…
BabyHawk have lots of lovely stock designs, but you can also ‘design your own’ if they don’t have a combination of strap & back that you like. Or if you simply like the thought of your carrier being unique!
We went for the stock owl design because it was reasonably gender-neutral and because we thought it would appeal to the Bean (it does. he hoots at it).
Disadvantages of the BabyHawk Mei Tai
Though the long straps are what make the Mei Tai perfectly adjustable to wearers of all shapes and sizes, they are really long. Which means they can get tangled, or drag on the floor.
2. Wide head support
The Mei Tai is supposed to be suitable from birth, but I'd be reluctant to put very small babies in there. The head support is wide and flat, and there is no way of adjusting it with extra little straps like some structured carriers have. I would worry that a very tiny baby's head would loll too much (though you would of course notice if this was the case, as you should only use a front carry with newborns).
Getting the most out of the BabyHawk Mei Tai
1. Practice before you head out
Those straps are loooong and that toddler wriggly. Better to practice a few times at home first, especially with the back carry! We found that the best way to get him on your back safely when you're on your own, is to:
Tie the bottom straps around your waist, then make sure the top straps are not caught up in each other.
Sit the toddler on a high surface such as a cupboard, table or even a step on the stairs.
Stand or sit (if on the stairs) right in front of him, then shimmy the bottom part of the carrier under his bum and pull up the shoulder straps.
Stand up away from the surface, HOIK him up as high as possible, and tie.
Alternatively, the lady in the video above does an AWESOME front-to-back hip shuffle.
2. Wash cold/cool in a laundry net or pillow case
The label says handwash-only, but then the toddler peed on it. I washed it on a gentle cycle at 30° C and, luckily, the colours didn’t bleed at all. But the straps did get all twisted, because I hadn’t put it in a laundry net…